Strawberry Layer Cake

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A beautiful, blushing Strawberry Layer Cake with creamy Heritage Frosting! Pink strawberry cake layers slathered with sweet jam and heritage, or “cooked flour,” frosting that is special enough for Mom this Mother’s Day.

I am so grateful to be able to spend Mother’s Day with my mom this year. Living in a different country means we only get to see each other half of the year. And since my mom is like my best friend, this is never enough.

If you asked my teenage self if I would ever consider my mom to be my best friend, I probably would have laughed. But at that age, it wasn’t her job to be my friend. Growing up, my mom was never easy on me. She didn’t push too hard (or harder than she knew I could handle) and was never cruel or anything, but traits like honesty, kindness, and hard work ethic were non-negotiable from my brother and me. At the same time, she was (and still is) the most generous and dependable person ever. From volunteering at school (which I probably never appreciated enough) and driving me to and from dance class nearly every day, she was one of the most hard-working women I know. It might have taken me 25 years to appreciate all her help and guidance, but now I can only thank her for shaping me into the woman and mother that I am today.

And the love hasn’t stopped! From testing recipes with me, insisting on cleaning our house when she comes to visit, helping me keep my patio plants alive, and babysitting Everett any chance she gets, she definitely deserves to be celebrated this Sunday. I’m a mom now too, and since baking is still my favorite hobby (that just happens to be my career), I made this pretty pink cake for the both of us. Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!

Strawberry Layer Cake
serves 12 to 16

For the strawberry puree:

2 cups ripe strawberries, halved
1 tablespoon sugar, or more to taste
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Pinch of salt

Combine the strawberries, sugar, lemon juice, and salt in a small food processor and process until smooth. Taste and add more sugar as needed. Measure 1 cup of the puree and place in a small or medium saucepan.

Place the saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the puree begins to bubble. Turn the heat down to a low simmer and allow the puree to reduce down to ½ cup, about 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool before use.

For the strawberry cake:

3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, such as Bob’s Red Mill
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs
1 cup whole milk
Pink gel food coloring (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour three 8-inch cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper.

Sift together the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a medium bowl.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed for 2 minutes. Add the sugar and mix on medium-high until light and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl.

Turn the mixer to medium-low and add the vanilla. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing until each is incorporated before adding the next. Mix until combined. Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl.

Turn the mixer to low and add in about 1/3 of the flour mixture and mix until incorporated. Stream in the ½ cup of cooled strawberry puree and mix until incorporated. Add in half of the remaining flour mixture and mix until incorporated. Stream in the milk and mix until incorporated. Add in the remaining flour mixture until just combined. Tint the cake batter with food coloring, if desired. Mix on medium for no more than 30 seconds.

Evenly divide the batter among the prepared pans. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of each cake comes out clean. Let the cakes cool on a wire rack for 10 to 15 minutes before removing from the pans. Allow the cakes to cool completely then level the tops of the cakes with a long serrated knife as needed.


For the heritage frosting:

1 ½ cups granulated sugar
1/3 cup unbleached all-purpose flour, such as Bob’s Red Mill
1 ½ cups whole milk
1 ½ cup (3 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and softened
1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Pink gel food coloring (optional)

In a medium saucepan, whisk together the sugar and flour. Add the milk and whisk to combine. Place over medium-high heat, whisking occasionally, until the mixture comes to a boil. Once it begins to boil, continue to whisk for about 2 more minutes or until the mixture thickens (similar to a light pudding). Remove from the heat and scrape the frosting base into a heat-safe container. Press a piece of plastic directly on top of the frosting base and chill in the refrigerator for about an hour.

Once cooled, dump the frosting base into the bowl of a stand mixer. If it is still slightly warm, mix with the paddle attachment on medium speed until room temperature. With the mixer on medium-low, slowly add in the soft butter, a few pieces at a time. Allow the butter to incorporate before adding in the next few pieces. Once all of the butter has been added, add the vanilla then mix at medium-high for 2 to 3 minutes or until completely combined and fluffy. Tint with pink gel food coloring, if desired.

Assembly:

½ cup strawberry jam
½ batch Whipped Vanilla Buttercream
6 fresh strawberries, halved
Sugar pearls (optional)

Place one cake layer on a cake board or serving dish. Fill a piping bag fitted with a round tip with the heritage frosting. Pipe a ring of frosting around the top edge of the cake, about ½-inch high. Spread ¼ cup strawberry jam into the frosting “dam.” Fill in the ring with about ¾ cups of frosting. Top with the next layer of cake and repeat. Place the last layer of cake on top. Crumb coat the cake with the frosting and chill in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.

Smoothly frost the cake with the remaining frosting. Fill a piping bag fitted with a large star tip with the whipped vanilla buttercream. Pipe dollops around the top edges of the cake and top with the halved strawberries. Sprinkle with sugar pearls, if using

Notes:
– If the frosting is too soft to ice the cake, chill the frosting in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes, then mix again.
– The frosting may soften, start to separate, and feel greasy. To begin, add small pieces of soft (not melty) butter. Add only a few pieces in at a time. If the frosting is greasy, chill in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes then mix again until smooth.
– The frosting makes just enough to fill and smoothly frost the cake. Restrain yourself from over-filling your layers. A half batch Whipped Vanilla Buttercream is used for the piped decorations.

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